Monday, September 26, 2011

The Winter of our Disconnect - Susan Maushart

The Winter of our Disconnect - Susan Maushart (2010)

With three teenagers and living in Perth, author Susan Maushart takes up the challenge of banning all screens from her home for six months.  All ipods, iphones, laptops and tvs are not to be used, and instead the family must learn to reconnect with each other and fill in their time.

After spending just a 36 hour period with my nephew and his two mates, I was frustrated that I was paying money to take them places and show them things, while their heads were down and they were busy playing competative nintendo like it was an Olympic sport.  So busy, that life was passing them by, and the kid who'd never been to Welington before, never actually saw it cos he was too busy scoring points.  I am pleased though, that this year my nephew is more likely to be out on his bike with friends, than wearing out his thumbs in front of the xbox.

I despair too when I talk to the the 18 year old students who have started with us, who must be clever to get into the programme, but who have limited street smarts and even they wonder what they actually learned while at school. 

So, if you have teenagers yourself, or wonder how your own family would cope it certainly makes an interesting read.  3/5.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Kashmir Shawl - Rosie Thomas

The Kashmir Shawl - Rosie Thomas (2011)

This one was better than Rosie Thomas last book Lovers and Newcomers, although the slow beginning made me almost put this one aside.  Once it got into the main story of Nerys and her  Welsh missionary husband, who head to India before the second world war.  After a miscarriage, Nerys is sent to the lakeside town of Srinagar, where she finds herself involved with her two closest friends in the expat community.

Years later, her granddaughter Mair cleans out her fathers house and finds a beautiful  antique shawl, which leads her to retrace her grandparents footsteps and find out the origin of the shawl.  You get the gist of it, it flows between the two stories, and I found that it held my interest through til the end.  3/5

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Night Waking - Sarah Moss

Night Waking - Sarah Moss (2011)

Anna is a historian, researching childhood in Victorian times for her book, which she is writing on an isolated Island off the Scottish coast.  Her ecologist husband is busy counting puffins during the day, while Anna struggles to balance her career with caring for her two children.  They are also renovating a cottage to hire out and host families.

With barely any sleep, I felt like stepping in and shaking this mother and as she is woken every night in the early hours by her two year old son Moth.  You can feel the tension, and I began to wonder if she would harm the children, as that wasn't the sort of novel I wanted to continue reading.  Instead though the family find the body of a young baby buried in the garden, and they begin to wonder who it belonged to, delving into the family history and further clues come forward when they find a bunch of letters over a hundred years old hidden in the house.

3/5 - poor woman, living with that family.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Meeting Point - Lucy Caldwell

The Meeting Point - Lucy Caldwell (2011)

Euan and Ruth are young and married, and living on the family farm in Ireland on a farm with their toddler daughter Anna.  They leave the green to head for Bahrain, where Euan will take on missionary work.  This leaves Ruth and Anna at home at their compound.  She makes friends with Noor, a teenager with a troubled past, who offers to babysit while her cousin Farid shows Ruth around.

As her marriage begins to falter, Ruth and Farid spend more time together, which doesn't go unnoticed by those around them.  Noor babysits more often, and begins to imagine a new life, living in Ireland with her new friends, while Euan risks all by sneaking into Saudi.

It was an interesting look into a country that I know nothing about, although I did find Euan and Ruth a little niave, not really understanding the culture of  the new country they are living in.  3/5

Monday, September 19, 2011

Not Becoming My Mother - Ruth Reichl

Not Becoming My Mother - Ruth Reichl (2009)

I must have read something to recommend this book in the depths of blogland, and thought I would give it a go.  When I got it out from the local library, the librarian said that she had read her earlier books and was a good author, always a good start.

So this little tome didn't take long to read, it is a short little 112 pages.  She is primarily a food writer/critic/editor, but in this book she talks about her relationship with her mother.  I always enjoy tales of growing up, and I think the memoir succeeds because Ruth Reichl ends up understanding, that although her mother was full of faults and quite unstable, she was a product of her times.  On what would have been her mothers hundreth birthday Ruth opens her mothers old diaries and letters and learns about the mother she never knew.

My mother has been gone six years now, and there is so much I wish I could ask her, the things that no one else knows the answers to.  So a 3/5 - for making me think about my own mum, and wish that she had left a pile of letters behind.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How to Eat a Small Country - Amy Finley

How to Eat a Small Country - Amy Finley (2011)

On the front jacket, the publishers have written "A family's pursuit of happiness, one meal at a time".  It wasn't the impression that I came away with from this book.

Amy is a young mother of two, who tries out for a food network competition to win a job hosting her own show.  After making six episodes of her new show, the pressure on her husband and children is ready to implode her marriage.  So they pack up and move to France for a year, to regroup and travel around and sample the local food.

Somehow though, I get the feeling that Amy doesn't actually seem to enjoy the year and is essentially frustrated.  It always seems to rain, the hotels are mostly run down and the bistros seems a bit old, dusty and tired.    Although I didn't expect them to sit around and just eat macaroons and pastries, I got a bit turned off by all the descriptions of meat and offal, and it was enough to make me think of being vegetarian if I toured France.

So a 2/5 for me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Greater Love - Olga Watkins

A Greater Love - Olga Watkins (2011)

So this one seemed a bit of a smaller read, after trawling through several bricks lately.  Several nights of coughing have left me with very limited sleep, and rather than trying to get back to the zzzzs, it was easier to sit up and read.

Hmmm, I'm not so sure of the front review that calls this "The Greatest Untold Love Story of World War Two", for me a bit of an exageration, as it was more a love story of the time.  Olga is just 20 when the Gestapo seize her fiance, and she sets off to find him, not expecting to end up in several concentration camps in her search.  One has to admire the risks she took to find Julius, without any help from her family and searching on her own, things could have turned badly at so many turns. 

Then when things seem to be settling down after the war, more changes occur and they are lost to each other again.  Stories like this one, always make me wonder how I would cope in similar circumstances, would I take risk, cross borders, work for Nazis, run from border guards - who knows? It was nice though to know that she did finally find some happiness in her life, after such a tough start. 3/5

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sweater Quest - Adrienne Martini

Sweater Quest - Adrienne Martini (2010)

After a weekend of crazy spring illness, one would think I would have plowed through my book pile, but alas the lurgy gave me not chance of having an attention span, and I attacked the DVR pile instead, and watched the final Oprah show - which was a bit of a let down I thought.

Adrienne Martini decides to spend a year knitting a mammoth of a jumper, blogs about it and writes a book.  Me, I had my own knitting moments, and must apologise to all of my friends, those ones who I knitted ugly big jumpers and gave them to them on their thenty firsts.  So sorry, wish I had bought you all something normal, like towels or glasses.

Anyways, I did enjoy the fact that Adrienne realised that she enjoyed the knitting but not the actual product, as there is something theraputic about this and many hobbies, especially when sitting and watching tv, it takes the guilt away I think from such a mindless time waster.

I did get a bit bored by all the discussion regarding the patterns designer and ownership issues.  So for this - I give it a 3/5.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Belle - Lesley Pearse

Belle - Lesley Pearse (2011)

Belle is a brick of a book, so it took me a few days to roll through.  Luckily, having the 5th flu of the year enabled me to curl up in my bed and get lots of reading done.  Belle is a fifteen year old girl when she realises that her mother runs a brothel and what that means, and after witnessing the brutal murder of one of the girls she is put into danger.  Then while out on the streets, she is abducted and taken to Paris where she is brutally raped by five men then taken to New Orleans where she is sold to a madam.

Finding a way out with a rich patron doesn't result in an easy time, as Belle tries to find her way home, although I wonder why she didn't try to hurry home to London, and seemed content to settle in Paris.  Meanwhile her friends are still seaching for her, and their story is entwined with hers. 

I did end up thinking that although the story was meant to be set in 1910, somehow it seemed to be based in an earlier time.  I did enjoy the book though, and was wondering where it would end and which man she would choose - 3/5

Monday, September 05, 2011

Let Not the Waves of the Sea - Simon Stephenson

Let Not the Waves of the Sea - Simon Stephenson (2011)

I guess one of my favorite genres of memoirs are the ones that deal with death and loss, which may seem creepy but seldom do I enjoy the ones that have super bubbly happy lives.  But thinking about it most autobiographies deal with the author dealing with some form of crisis and overcoming it. 

So Simon and his family awake to the news of the Boxing day Tsunami in the Indian ocean 2004, aware that his brother Dominic and partner Eileen are holidaying in a Thai Beach resort.  When they fail to hear from them, an uncle ventures south to see if he can identify any of the vast numbers of bodies found and reality sets in. 

It is overwhelming now to consider just how many people died, 230,000 is an amazing number to picture in any one group, and that huge families were just lost and so many bodies will never be identified or found.  I was talking to my dad about it, and how little we were shown on the news, compared to the Japanese earthquake and following Tsunami.  At the time though, our mum was ill and probably less time was spent in front of the TV as it was the middle of our summer, and many press would have been in the midst of holidays.

This book was sweet in its own special way as Simon talks about his relationship with his brother, growing up together in Scotland and how the grieving affected his life.  Returning to Thailand many times after the disaster I think he is searching for some lost connection to his brother that never really comes, and is surprised yet I think that when someone dies you won't find that at the cemetery, or where they lived or died, you can only find that connection within yourself, when the sadness ebbs away.

A 4/5 - as it was a good reminder to be kind to your family and friends in your own life, as you never know when they will be gone.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Absolutist - John Boyne

The Absolutist - John Boyne (2011)

John Boyne is the author of the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, that was turned into a movie recently.  He is a good author, I enjoy the flow of his books and I always like a book I can get somewhat lost in without thinking too much.  When I  have to think too much, I end up feeling dragged through a story and sometimes resent the time spent struggling.

So, in this adult story we learn about Tristan and Will who train together at Aldershot before the first world war.  After the war Tristan then returns to Wills home town to take Wills sister Marian, the letters she wrote to her brother.  Through the two stories we learn about what happens to the two friends in the midst of relentless fighting.

It was a 3/5 for me, as it felt a bit like a story that I had heard before, although told with a new voice, and more eloquent than most.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Once Upon a Time, There Was You - Elizabeth Berg

Once Upon a Time, There Was You - Elizabeth Berg (2011)

Elizabeth Berg is one of those authors I have been reading for years.  She always writes pretty consistently, with stories of families and realistic lives.

In this book Sadie is 18, and finds herself at odds with the her mother Irene who she lives with.  When John and Irene married in their thirties they had their doubts about their relationship and now, after years of being divorced they must find a new way to be together, when Sadie needs their help.

Just a 3/5 for me, as I found the crisis a bit forced.